Focus: Faithful love
Ruth 1:16 (NKJV) Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is a sweet little story tucked between the pages of Judges and 1 Samuel, called the Book of Ruth. It’s only four chapters long and is really worth the short time it takes to read the whole thing.
The story is full of rich symbols and imagery, and we could all benefit by contemplating the kindness shown by a faithful daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law.
Around a thousand years before the birth of Jesus, there was a famine in the country of Israel. A husband and wife named Elimelech and Naomi, left Bethlehem, Israel with their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and emigrated to the country of Moab.
We aren’t told whether the famine had anything to do with it, but while they were in Moab, Elimelech died. Naomi’s two sons later married Moabite women. Mahlon married Ruth, and Chilion married Orpah. Before they were able to have any children, Mahon and Chilion both died, also. Leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, alone. All of this happened in the first five verses of Chapter One.
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Following the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi decided she should leave Moab and return to Bethlehem. Knowing she had no way to provide for her daughters-in-law, Naomi encouraged the two young women to go back to their own mothers and hope that God would give them another husband from their own people.
Orpha decided to follow Naomi’s advice, but Ruth just couldn’t. Ruth had a deep commitment to her mother-in-law. She knew it would be very difficult for Naomi to survive alone. Ruth told Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn from back from following you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”
After about a seven to ten day journey, Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, at the beginning of barley harvest. The whole city was stirred up because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty…”
Naomi and Ruth had to have food, so Ruth went to the fields of a man named Boaz, who was a relative of her deceased father-in-law, Elimelech. Boaz was a wealthy man with integrity. In those times, widows, strangers, and orphans were allowed to go into the fields for leftovers after the regular harvest crew had gathered the crop. The corners of the fields were purposely left unharvested and a portion of the crop in the middle of the field was also purposely left behind for those in need. It was a ‘welfare system’ that was set forth in the book of Leviticus as a way of sharing with those who were less fortunate.
Boaz had heard of Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law and told Ruth to continue to come to his fields to find grain. He instructed his workers to leave extra grain behind for Ruth and to honor her.
At the end of the harvest season, Boaz performed all of the necessary duties according to their customs and committed to taking Ruth as his wife. By marrying Ruth, Boaz redeemed both Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Ruth and Boaz had a son who they named Obed, who by their laws was considered the same as a son to Naomi and legal heir to Elimelech’s property.
Obed later became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David. We know from historical records that Jesus was from the lineage of David.
The moral of this story is that genuine love and kindness will be rewarded by God.
Declaration: I will find new strength by studying the role models of the Bible and learning from their examples.
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